Put sewage issue on the ballot, Esquimalt councillor says

Esquimalt Coun. Tim Morrison believes the township’s residents are solidly behind his council’s unanimous rejection of a regional sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point, and he wants to give them a chance to prove it.

Morrison has called for three questions to be included on Esquimalt’s Nov. 15 municipal ballot, including one asking whether residents support Esquimalt council’s decision to reject the Capital Regional District’s zoning application for a sewage plant.

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“It’s a response to CRD directors who have attempted to create a wedge between the council and our community,” Morrison said Tuesday.

“As a councillor, I know my community very well. I know it much better than any CRD director and … I’ll prove to the world that the citizens of Esquimalt are very much in support of council on their decision regarding McLoughlin Point.”

Council will debate whether to include Morrison’s suggested questions, as well as Amalgamation Yes’s proposed question on regional amalgamation, in two weeks.

Morrison’s other two questions ask whether residents support Esquimalt remaining an independent municipality with independent legal authority over land-use decisions, and whether residents support the municipality exploring options to share some services — including a distributed or decentralized sewage-treatment system — with other municipalities.

The CRD has been frustrated by both Esquimalt’s refusal to rezone McLoughlin Point for a regional treatment plant and the province’s subsequent decision not to intervene and overturn the decision.

With a number of deadlines looming and about $500 million in senior government funding for the project potentially at risk, the CRD was prepared to offer Esquimalt $19 million, or about $200 a year over 25 years for every household.

Regional directors had even considered sending a mail-out directly to Esquimalt residents outlining the potential benefits of the offer. At the time, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins called the offer insulting and said her council’s rejection of the plant was never about money. CRD directors backed away from the mail-out plan.

Esquimalt is now exploring the idea of having a smaller tertiary treatment plant in the town centre, possibly as part of its village core revitalization, to handle its sewage.

Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, who chairs the CRD’s core area liquid waste committee, agreed that the $19-million offer hasn’t seemed to resonate with Esquimalt residents, so putting a question on the ballot is unlikely to make any difference.

There was never an attempt to drive a wedge between Esquimalt council and its residents, Young said.

“The attempt was to get Esquimalt council itself to reconsider the question in the light of new information [that wasn’t available at the public hearing] including basic stuff such as what the plant would look like.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

The suggested questions

Esquimalt Coun. Tim Morrison is suggesting at least three non-binding questions be put on the Esquimalt municipal election ballot in November. The issue will be debated in two weeks. Voters will be able to vote yes or no to each question. The proposed questions are:

• Following an extensive public process, the Township of Esquimalt voted unanimously on April 7th, 2014, to reject the Capital Regional District’s Bylaw 2805 zoning application to locate the region’s centralized sewage treatment in Esquimalt. Do you support Esquimalt Council’s decision to reject the Capital Regional District’s Bylaw 2805 application?

• Do you support the Township of Esquimalt remaining as an independent municipality with independent legal authority over land-use decisions?

• Do you support the Township of Esquimalt exploring options with other municipalities to achieve greater efficiencies by further sharing some services with other municipalities including a distributed or decentralized model of sewage treatment?

Esquimalt council will also consider including a question proposed by Amalgamation Yes, a pro-amalgamation group:

• Are you in favour of reducing the number of municipalities in Greater Victoria through amalgamation?

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